I have always been a sweaty person. And I've always been self-conscious about it. I'd never wear a heather-grey shirt in public (anyone who's especially sweat-prone will know that this color betrays even the tiniest drop of moisture). I'm never without a travel stick of deodorant. I've often taken comfort in the fact that black is considered so fashionable; it's always been my sartorial color of choice, mainly because it hides sweat stains, even in the summer.
My tendency to perspire noticeably became something I was acutely aware of, and — as many people do with the aspects of their appearance that make them anxious — I learned early on how to cover it up. We hide what we deem to be too-large foreheads under bangs and conceal our protruding ears by never putting our hair up. We learn tricks that make us feel OK (if not actually confident) walking around in the world with these perceived flaws, even though it's highly likely no one else is scrutinizing us with the critical eye we turn on ourselves.
Resigned at a young age to a life of constant shininess, I've been packing matte powders on ever since I first began experimenting with makeup. I lived in a state of constant battle with my sweatstache; any faint sign of dew on my upper lip sent me running to the bathroom to powder back up. Consequently, my skin often appeared flat and cakey, and I looked like I was haunting my friends in every flash photo.
Then, the beauty trends began to shift, and and I was introduced to a whole new aesthetic, one that prized being "dewy." I envied women and femmes who'd wear this look effortlessly, like they'd just stepped out of the shower. I'd seen it before in magazines and on models, sure, but I told myself that type of glow came only from ample retouching. But now, it was something I saw every day on the street, and it became clear the only thing these women needed was a good highlighter. As it became clear the trend was going to stick around, rendering my penchant for a ghostly, powdery cast all the more unfashionable, I decided to test the highlighter waters. To really lean into the whole dewy skin thing, I also equipped myself with an oil-based cleanser. You see, I'd learned that despite years of assuming I should be avoiding putting more oil on my face at all costs, some oils are, in fact, really good for your skin — and stripping skin's natural moisture with harsh cleansers can actually cause your skin to overproduce more oil on its own.
The first time I used highlighter, I saw a different version of myself in the mirror. It was strange to see a shiny cheeked me — and actually like it, to not have the urge to immediately cover it up beneath a dusting of powder. I liked the rosy glow of the stick I'd chosen, and the way that the highlighter seemed to make my cheekbones more pronounced than they'd ever been before. I liked how, if I put a dab of it in the inner corners of my eyes, I looked instantly more awake. I found out that putting a dot at the end of my nose made me feel like a cartoon deer... in the best way possible. I soon began playing with makeup more than ever, but unlike ever before — this time, I was having fun experimenting. The point wasn't to try and hide things about myself I dislike, it was to enhance the parts I do. I bought a few new highlighters in different shades, including a holographic purple one that I'm now obsessed with.
Shortly after working the oil cleanser and highlighter into my regular beauty routine, I fell in love with my new glow. I stopped being afraid of being "shiny" and began to embrace the fact that sometimes, natural oils can actually do really amazing things for skin. I stopped breaking out as much — probably in part because I was no longer ODing on oil-exacerbating mattifiers — and I think having a moisturized, dewy finish makes me look younger. But this highlighter-spurred revelation extended beyond just my time spent in front of the mirror or browsing the aisles of a Sephora. I realized something more profound, too: It's time to let my body off the hook and be a little more accepting of the fact that, yes, it sweats and produces oil, but that doesn't have to be viewed negatively. The fact is, I'm perfectly normal — and it took a little experimentation with makeup to help me realize that. Interestingly enough, I've found that I'm wearing less makeup as a result, and instead learning to embrace what I look like naturally — oily face and all. So, yes, highlighter has helped me shine. And I don't just mean my face.